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Cooking, with Music: Recipes from Rockin' Cookbooks

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Tonight the whole world is watching the 57th annual Grammy Awards with bated breath. What if Beyoncé does not win album of the year? (If you are reading this after the fact and Beyoncé has not won, at least we know the world goes on.)

We thought about providing recipes for party snacks to eat with your friends as you watch the glitz, the glamour, and the over-the-top performances but then we thought, "Nah! Been there, done that."

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So instead, we decided to explore another facet of some of our favorite stars' lives: their cooking habits. We chose five "musical artists" and cooked from their affiliated cookbooks. First the Grammys, then The James Beard Awards? Read on to find out.

Ali Slagle Tries to Cook with 2 Chainz 

After reading the introduction of the 2 Chainz cookbook #MEALTIME, I was fairly sure the book needed to be part of the Food52 permanent library. It’s practical (“exact measurements can’t always be accommodated”), it gets a little artsy (“all the measurements are at the discretion of your palette”), and it’s innovative: The promotional piece is included with his album B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time.

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I ordered the CD -- the first I’ve ordered since, hmm, *NSYNC? -- and attempted to tear into it when it arrived. But it seems I don’t remember how to open an album. Why plastic wrap and an adhesive sticker are needed, I don’t know, and how many minutes (and editors) it took to get them off, I will not reveal.

After all that effort, there wasn’t a cookbook inside, so we thought maybe it was an audiobook. We put the CD in the sole computer in the office that had a disk drive. No clicking or whooshing noise, “I’m Different” unfortunately not blasting through the office.

The CD is still stuck in our intern Katherine’s computer. Trust me, we tried to get it out. At this point, I probably could’ve listened to the 2 Chainz album three times on Spotify -- and altogether avoided the reminder that CDs are now only 90s ephemera. But the biggest travesty (Katherine’s computer aside), in fact, is that the cookbook is only available digitally. Why would I ever think I needed to buy a physical album? Get your head out of the cookbooks, Ali.

In memoriam of what could’ve been cooked from #MEALTIME, and of CDs, I made this:



Leslie Stephens Cooks with Trisha

As the editorial team’s resident country-lover, I jumped -- maybe a little too enthusiastically -- at the opportunity to cook from Trisha Yearwood’s cookbooks, Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen and the upcoming Trisha’s Table: My Feel-Good Favorites for a Balanced Life. After flipping through the recipes, which included some gems like “Redneck Sushi” and “Pink Salad,” I eventually decided to challenge my primarily-vegetable diet with a meat-and-potatoes dish, Sausage and Peppers, with Daddy’s Biscuits for dessert (...when in Georgia!).

To whip up some Southern comfort, I enlisted the Garth to my Trisha, put on a country playlist, and grabbed a beer (it seemed like the right thing to do), then set to work. The Sausage and Peppers were easy enough -- the recipe calls for spicy sausages (like Trisha’s Dad preferred), potatoes, bell peppers, and onions, all cut into 1-inch pieces and cooked in the oven at 400º F for 1 hour. When they came out, we scooped them into a bowl with some Tabasco sauce, the most Southern condiment in my refrigerator. Considering the simplicity of the dish, the end result was surprisingly delicious, made all the more enjoyable by a particularly soulful rendition of "How Do I Live Without You" playing in the background.

    

After dinner, we set to making Daddy’s Biscuits, which came highly recommended from Trisha: “If I had the time, I would have homemade biscuits at every meal.” The biscuits called for three ingredients -- vegetable shortening, self-rising flour, and buttermilk -- and were in the oven within minutes. (We bided the baking time by watching some very 80s Trisha music videos.) When the biscuits were ready, we cut each one in half and adding a tablespoon of honey butter (equal parts creamed honey and butter, whipped together) to each half, then placed them back into the oven to let the honey mixture melt into the biscuits. The end results were so delicious, I had the biscuits for breakfast the next morning with some coffee.

And I’ll tell you what, this ain’t gonna be the last time I turn to Trisha for a dinner recommendation. 

The Neither Long Nor Winding Road to Sarah Jampel's Dinner

I would feel dishonest referring to The Meat Free Monday Cookbook as Paul McCartney’s. Rather, it’s a book surrounding the campaign that the McCartney family launched in 2009 to encourage and enable people to eat less meat. 

But just because Sir Paul didn’t sit down to pen this tome with a quill in hand -- and I’ll admit that that’s the naïve notion that first drew me towards this book -- doesn’t mean The Meat Free Monday Cookbook is any less appealing. Yes, this is a book that Paul McCartney -- or his publicist, or his publicist’s publicist -- endorsed rather than wrote, but my skepticism was quickly quelled when I started flipping through it. Photos of larger-than-life fruits and vegetables are juxtaposed with images of finished dishes that go from the familiar (Vegetable Lasagna) to the exotic (Pumpkin and Tofu Laksa) and back again (Cheesy Kale Gratin). And even while some recipes sounded a little too simple to be recipes (Toasted Bagel with Hummus) or a little too commonplace to be exciting (Good Old Fashioned Macaroni and Cheese), I had trouble picking out anything I didn’t want to try. 

Eventually, I skipped past all of the celebrity recipe guest appearances -- past Pam Anderson’s Orange Marinated Tofu Skewers, past Pink’s Strawberries with Mascarpone and Cream, past Twiggy’s Mozzarella Pasta, and yes, even past Ottolenghi’s Smoky Polenta Fries -- and settled on Glamorgan Sausages. The first reason I chose this recipe is because the McCartney family is known for its vegetarian sausages (Linda’s brand, the headnote informed me, is the top-seller in the U.K.). Second, I was intrigued by these casing-free “sausages” made primarily from sautéed onions and leeks, bread crumbs, cheese, and eggs. Third, they sounded glamorous -- glamorganous, if you will. Of all the recipes in the book, this one was surely closest to what the McCartneys cook for themselves at home (or, you know, have cooked for them). 

  

As I started to make the Glamorgan, I was sure that they would fail (I almost wanted them to disappoint), but I was wrong. The batter came together easily and the final product was like a pan-fried, cheddar cheese version of Italian gnudi: light, fluffy, and savory. I made Lemon Broccoli (blanched broccoli sautéed with garlic and tossed with lemon zest and juice) to accompany the meal, which my roommate said was one of the best she’d had in weeks. The recipe called for “Welsh cheese, such as Caerphilly,” but it, accommodatingly, gives the option of cheddar, so even budget-conscious American home cooks like me can succeed.

So brava, Meat Free Monday. I’d turn to this book even if Paul McCartney’s name weren’t on the front cover (but it doesn’t hurt that it is).  
 

Amanda Sims Learns a Lesson in Ghetto Gourmet

Coolio's noble credo for his "ghetto gourmet" style of cooking is that a low income shouldn't keep you from making delicious food. In keeping with that, I chose to make the Soul Rolls, as I had most of the ingredients on hand -- ground turkey, cabbage, cheese, garlic, and a dime-bag each (that’s nearly a tablespoon, for readers who don’t know) of salt and pepper.

This isn't the go-live-on-a-farm artisanal variety of "cheap cooking," but rather a way of building flavors from simple bodega goods that really are available to everyone. "I can do this," I thought, mentally rifling through my refrigerator full of kale and French cheese. Tearing myself away from Coolio's Heavenly Garlic Bread, which calls for two cups of mayonnaise, I embarked on the book's opening recipe, swinging by the store only to get spring roll wrappers. 

  

True, I made some changes based on my pantry: I had to (had to!) freshly grind my pepper in a mortar and pestle (no grinder, no pre-ground), use a fine imported queso blanco (on hand!) instead of jack, and serve my Soul Rolls with a cumin-and-mint-roasted cauliflower (a recipe almost certainly conceived of in the Hamptons). So maybe I strayed from classic ghetto gourmet.

He omits important steps (such as soaking your spring roll wrappers to soften them before stuffing, or advising how much oil is necessary to fry a spring roll without tearing it open into a scramble), but no matter. His instructions are as vivid and transporting as Proust remembering those madeleines. I was all but swept away to the idyllic streets of Compton at step 9: "All ya kitchen pimps and hos, it's time to improvise! That's right, raid your refrigerator and add some sauce to your meat." You haven't been warned that there will be improv, but Coolio guides with an experienced hand. And ah, yes, I had some hand-crushed salsa made by artists in Brooklyn, so that had to do. 

In the end, my Soul Rolls mostly tore apart in their hot oil bath, creating a rich scramble of cheese, ground turkey, and purple cabbage. Everyone refused to eat them, but that was my fault for inviting people over for my Cooking with Coolio adventure. I didn't mind them, though -- they tasted like a burrito bowl with rice wrapper gobs. I'm scanning the garlic bread recipe now to see if I can make it with homemade aioli.

Kenzi Wilbur Attempts to Eat Like a Rock Star, Fails

A rock ’n’ [sic] roll cookbook actually sounded kind of fun: My uptight bookshelves could use a little grunge, and besides -- I wanted to see what walkin’ on the sun does to your dinner table. 

Apparently, it sets it with Tandoori Prawns with Mango Chutney and Thai Yellow Coconut Curry Shooters. And tuna tartare in martini glasses. And Blueberry Sea Scallops with Arugula. 

So you can imagine my disappointment. I wanted good, hearty food I could picture eating backstage. I wanted grandma pies and wings and booze. (Important: A milky slush of kahlúa, Grand Marnier, Bailey’s, Frangelico, and cream called “Carli’s Orjazzm” doesn’t count toward the latter.) In his foreword, Guy Fieri promised that I was “gonna get a full serving of what these dudes have been cookin’ up while rockin’ out,” but that wasn’t true, either. These pages -- all 386 of them -- are instead filled with what other people (line cooks, personal chefs, Carli) have presumably cooked for them while on tour. 

Never mind that the layout and photos (many goatees, many shirtless drummers) feel like a neon, 90s bad dream -- I couldn’t find anything I wanted to cook. What I did find: two recipes for bacon-wrapped meatloaf, a lobster burrito, and one for something called “Cheese Boulders,” which purportedly serves 10 but calls for a combined 7 1/2 pounds of cheese and 10 cups of liquid eggs. Being a rockstar must be harder work than I thought. 

I briefly considered testing a smoked potato, egg, and olive salad. Should I have decided to power through, I’m not sure I would have known how: The ingredient list calls for “applewood smoked eggs, hard cooked,” but the method makes no mention of how to actually make this happen.

Sad and let down, I tested a cocktail instead -- the Glascott Special, a vodka Red Bull with a splash of cranberry, to drown my sorrows. As I sipped, I turned my attention to the brief chapter intermezzos from the band, all of which start with the phrase: “This one time…” I made myself stick out the first few -- maybe I’d learn something. I did: a quick economics lesson (“Hit song = Prevost”), and an insider-y fact about the back lounge of said Prevost: 

“Aaww yeah baby…this is where the party party [sic]…y’know…it’s the…it’s the back lounge. That’s all.” 

I poured the drink out, closed the book, and tucked it away -- I needed to get myself away from this place.

Tags: grammys, cookbooks